Succeeding With Your First Ranch
Over the past decade, Americans purchasing land and moving to rural Wyoming and other northwestern states has become commonplace. The appeal has never been greater than this past year, with heavily-populated areas experiencing the bulk of the Covid-related issues, causing people to feel the urge to flee cities in favor of a more rural setting. No surprise, states like Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho are seeing a massive influx of out-of-state buyers. Many of these buyers, accustomed to city living, abundant access to amenities and services, and relatively low-maintenance properties, find themselves overwhelmed once they begin to settle into their new rural ranches. People used to their whole neighborhood comprising several city blocks now don’t have neighbors or amenities for miles. While there will always be an adjustment for formerly urbanite ranch buyers, there are some strategies to help you ease the transition.
TAKING CARE OF THE RANCH
Taking care of your new ranch should be the most straightforward task to accomplish. The first step is to have an in-depth visit and conversation with the seller before closing. Most sellers are more than happy to walk you through the systems and practices they have used successfully on their ranch, and each is different. If there is a ranch manager in place, buyers should have a conversation with them and consider keeping them moving forward. Having a ranch manager, particularly one who already knows the ins and outs of the property, can provide substantial long-term benefits.
It is essential to get to know some of the local experts and suppliers you can lean on to help you succeed with your new ranch and do so before any potential issues arise. That list includes:
Local Feed store
University Ag Extension Office
County Weed and Pest Office
Local Welding shop/mechanic shop
Suppliers for the ranch
Once you have made these connections, these folks should be able to point you in the right direction for almost anything else you may need. Bear in mind, one thing that likely attracted you to the rural way of life was the slower pace. It is crucial to bear in mind that these providers often cover a great distance, and things may not happen as quickly as they did “back home.” But you will also find that all of these people will be a wealth of knowledge and resources.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Taking care of yourself, for some, will be the most significant task they face. Adjusting to smaller communities, traveling long distances for shopping and amenities, growing accustomed to the people and the way of life in many of these western states is a massive change for most coming from more urban areas. A helpful realization that people tend to have moving West is that those who live here already like it the way it is. There is a well-known old western saying that “good fences make good neighbors.” There is no truer statement when it comes to ranches and cattle country. Through the ages, disputes and all-out wars have been fought over fences or the lack of them. There is nothing a neighboring rancher appreciates more than a new owner coming in and immediately repairing or putting up a new section of fence on the adjoining property boundary.
There are many things a family can do to assimilate into their new western community. One of the best is participating in neighborhood brandings. In the spring, ranchers will brand their newly born calf crop, and most will rely on friends and neighbors to get the job done, all helping one another in turn. You might be surprised how welcome your help would be, even if you’ve never done it before. People are more than willing to give you a task, help you learn, and appreciate that you’re eager to lend a helping hand. These brandings, although hard work, tend to end in a social gathering, providing an excellent opportunity to meet the community. And if you have purchased a working ranch, you will need help to accomplish this same task yourself.
Volunteering is another excellent way to become a part of your new community. There is always a need for volunteers in rural areas. Many schools, cultural, civic, and sporting events are supported or sponsored by fundraising and hands-on work, and new volunteers always bring renewed life to these efforts.
One of the best guides a person can strive to live by is the Code of The West. It was alleged to be unwritten for years, passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. It finally began appearing in books starting in 1934 and most recently in Jim Owen’s Cowboy Ethics in 2004. It is considered important and influential enough that on March 3, 2010, the state of Wyoming declared The Code of the West the official state code of ethics for Wyoming.
CODE OF THE WEST.
Live each day with courage.
Take pride in your work.
Always finish what you start.
Do what has to be done.
Be tough, but fair.
When you make a promise, keep it.
Ride for the brand.
Talk less, say more.
Remember that some things are not for sale.
Know where to draw the line.
I wish I could tell you that everyone in Wyoming follows the Code of the West, but if you are familiar with any of Wyoming’s history, you know we have had our share of ill-doers and malcontents. For the most part, though, people in the West seem to live by a version of this code, and most you meet are good, hard-working honest folks.
If you bear these principles in mind: being patient, taking the time to meet and learn from the community, and lend a hand to your neighbors, you will be well on your way to enjoying your first ranch. And the more you learn and feel a part of your new rural community, the more you will enjoy the wild beauty and wide-open spaces that probably drew you to the West in the first place.
Neil was raised in a small ranching community in Northern California. From an early age, he was introduced to the values that a lifestyle of ranching and farming can instill in a young man: A never-say-quit attitude; honesty; dependability, and self-reliance.
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